Hamilton Orchards

When I left North Carolina I had just awoken from a specific kind of hell. I had just finished up with a relationship that included longs sits in cornfields by myself contemplating what, in retrospect, surmounted to be how secure I was with who I had became. Being twenty I had managed to get rid of my virginity in the most empty way because twenty year old virgins struggle to be anything but themselves.

Home life had been a battle that could be summarized by resent on both ends. My folks were living in a parsonage outside of a small town called Fuquay-Varina. Southern states are weird. While Fuquay-Varina was the closest town to where I lived, we actually lived on unincorporated land in Harnett county. There was a church on every street and cornfields as far as the eye could see. During my one-year stint there I did not meet a single person who was also in their twenties.

My folks were living in Harnett county because my step-father was studying for his doctorates in theology and ministering at Chalybeate Springs Baptist Church. Religion didn't sit well with me and I tried to put on good show but the one person I couldn't convince (and the only one that mattered), was my step-father. He made sure to let me know just how blind and stupid and ignorant I was, claiming sometimes he just wanted to "pick me up and shake me."

It was time to go.

I didn't really give my folks or my job much notice but when I told them I was leaving none of them were particularly surprised. The possessions that I packed into my Ford Focus were just some clothes, my guitar and my computer. The only objects of significance that I had left behind were some books, which for some reason I decided that I didn't need them were I was going.

The day I left I had one last shift at my job, but I had left early without telling my boss, said good-bye to my mum and was on the road heading north. I think I drove 90 most of the way – all I really remember was cool evening air, purple and orange Virginian sunsets, puke in the gas-station bathrooms in DC, downpour in NYC, and listening to Death the whole way.

After I settled into my Aunt's place in Orange, Massachusetts I got busy working with my buddy's dad who was an electrician. My buddy, Al, and I went all the way back to elementary school. We both discovered our sexuality on the bus at an early age when we touched our tongues together and decided that it wasn't for us. Before I left North Carolina the last thing Al was doing was sticking needles in his arm, but he seemed to be doing much better at this point.

To call ourselves electricians would be quite the stretch of the truth, as all we really did was punch quarter-sized holes through 2"x4"s and ran various widths of wires through them. It was hard work to be doing in the middle of the humid New England summer. At the end of the day Al and I would often smoke pot to ease our sore muscles and pass out on the floor of his dad's with Adult Swim playing in the background. Neither of us were getting laid and the sexual tension was very real. I look back to this time fondly, despite the fact that we got paid virtually nothing and I pretty sure that Al's dad still owes me money.

Every now and then Al would ask me to drive him to Hamilton Orchards. This was a bad sign. Al would initiate the request with some sort of lazy excuse, but I knew it was about getting dope. The variety would change depending on what Anthony Hamilton, his dealer, had in at the time. It was mostly ketamine, cocaine, or oxycodone. It really didn't matter. Al was an addict.

Al was able to fool me into driving him there once or twice, but after baby-sitting him in a k-hole at Cumberland Farms in Athol I decided to draw the line. This was a cycle that Al and I were familiar with and the falling out was both expected and necessary. I wouldn't see Al again until he was out of rehab.

The time off was good for me as I had to figure a few things out mentally. The relationship I had just been in left me angsty and empty and wanting to be needed. The fact that she left me to go back with her baby daddy initially left me angry but distance and time gave me the clarity to realize that I was the asshole. If you aren't happy with someone, life is too short. Leave them and be happy. I would eventually come to terms with this way of thinking, but it was a slow and painful process and I said many hurtful things along the way.

I had come to some sort of peace with the relationship by the fall.

Christmas had always been my least favorite time of the year. Traditionally, it represented my step-father had sucking the life out of my mother. During Christmas Eve when I was a child my mum used to (when I was asleep) shake flour through hand-made stencils of elf shoes to make footprints heading from the fireplace to the Christmas tree. Being a single mom, my mum did not have that much money so I would get an assortment of school supplies and socks and one Lego set htat I had been wanting. These were the best Christmases I ever had. I remember wearing pajamas and playing with a Lego set of an underwater base that mined for crystals. The Lego men came with tiny flippers that snapped into the bottom of their feet.

All of this went away when my mom married my step-father. My mum wasn't allowed to make footprints or decorate Christmas trees with me because Christmas was about Jesus not some pagan ritual.

This said, I was not surprised when I received a call from my friend Colin saying that Al had overdosed that Christmas. He was found in a crawlspace under a barn surrounded with an assortment of medication that he had presumably stolen from his grandparents. I would later find out that the farmer who found him force fed Al an charcoal pill that ended up saving his life.

© 2018 Patrick Brown